An excellent update on SR-710 Study. This Opinion piece was written by Dr. Bill Sherman who serves on the South Pasadena Freeway and Transportation Commission and represents the City of South Pasadena on the METRO Technical Advisory Committee (TAC).
South Pasadena Review, dated January 29th, 2014, PAGE 4:
EIR Soon to Move Into New Phase by Dr. Bill Sherman
The 710 Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) is soon to enter a new phase-the Draft EIR/EIS. This means that Metro and their contractor, CH2MHill, have finished acquiring data and are now going to present some conclusion, but perhaps not yet the “Preferred Alternative.”
The study was initiated with a so called project needs statement. They told us our freeways were too
crowded. They presented data showing transit times on I-10, SR-60, SR-101, I-405, I-210, SR-2, SR-
110 were too long and unpredictable during peak hours. Wow, was this a surprise. Those of us living
in Los Angeles always knew that the freeways were in gridlock, but now we really know it is so
because Metro/Ch2MHill told us with graphs and tables. They told us that this gridlock was due to a
North-South “connectivity” problem and told us if only there were a way to improve this connectivity all would be well.
They entered a “scoping” phase were they asked the public for a solution to this identified problem. They also came up with their ideas to solve the problem. There were perhaps 150-200 ideas put forward during this phase.
Winnowing down the multitude of ideas was called the “Alternative Analysis” phase of the study. They created criteria, arbitrary criteria, for a solution to the problems they have identified and applied it to all of these ideas. Did I say all? Some of the ideas were brought up after the AA phase was closed so they never had to be compared to the 145-195 ideas that were rejected. This winnowing left five perhaps six plans: No build, Bus Rapid Transport (BRT), Light Rail, a complex agenda of small projects called Transportation Systems Management/Transportation Systems Demand (TSM/TDM), and our old friend the tunnel. Did I misspeak? Perhaps they meant to say two bored tunnels, one in each direction, or perhaps a single bored tunnel, though the single bored tunnel has escaped the alternative analysis phase of the study.
The winnowing phase has not been concerned with the cost. I guess for Metro money is no object,
but no I am wrong. They are going to finance this with a Public Private Partnership (PPP). You may ask what is a PPP? A PPP is a corporation that is tasked with designing, building, maintaining and operating the project. The corporation finances the project, the project being the tunnel. Eventually the PPP will recoup their monies by charging tolls for use of the tunnel. I guess this is really not a
free tunnel, but a toll tunnel. Was the possibility of tolls considered during the AA phase of the
study? Not on your life. Remember money is no object. Now we have been told that Metro won’t be able to sell this PPP if it cost too much, $7-8 billion. Again this is not a problem. What they are going to do is instead of boring two six mile long tunnels they will bore only one. This cuts the cost by half as well as the capacity by half. Only half the people will want to use the tunnels because they will charge enough money in tolls to discourage some users, but still pay off the investors. Not to worry because some time in the distant future they will just bore another tunnel. Perhaps a second PPP will finance the second phase, but remember money is no object. Who pays these tolls? Well of course it is the public. The toll way users pay it directly and the rest of us pay it indirectly in increased product costs for the products that are trucked through the toll way. They will use “variable tolling which means it will cost more during peak hours and trucks will pay more than cars. PPP’s are not like taxes and bond sales. They do not require public approval. Metro and our elected officials can impose this cost without asking for public approval. This reminds me of taxation without representation.” Didn’t we fight a war with the British over this idea?
There are other costs of the tunnel(s) which we have not considered. There are the costs to our health. At either end of the tunnel there will be a spewing of pollution from the 180,000 (dual bore) or
108,000 (single bore) vehicles per day that will use this tunnel. There is no technology that can “filter’ out the toxic fumes from these cars and trucks. Wait did I say trucks? Metro has not confirmed that they will allow trucks in the tunnel, but if they don’t let trucks into the tunnel
they won’t collect enough tolls to finance the PPP. These fumes will spread out over El Serrano and
Pasadena bringing death and disease to the people living and working there. Let’s not forget the other
people living in communities adjacent to the 210 and 134 who will experience increased pollution and increased disease because of the increased (truck) traffic.
Is it safe? The tunnel crosses an active earthquake fault-the Raymond Fault. The engineers
are very very smart. They can build a tunnel that will not rupture in a major quake. Of course
the soft mushy things in their hard cars will be tossed around somewhat, but the tunnel will not
rupture and if a few of the soft mushy things in the tunnel don’t survive that is just the price of
doing business. If there is a fire in the tunnel it will only be a short walk to safety, less than three
miles, if there is any oxygen left to breath. The old and infirm of course will be left to perish. This
is just another cost of doing business. But not to worry because fires rarely happen. Did we
recently have a tunnel fire in the transition from the Glendale Freeway to the I-5? What about
the fire in the truck tunnel on the I-5 at the 14?
But wait! I did not tell you the good news. In the year 2035, the tunnel will take 25,000 vehicles
per day off the I-5 through the downtown area. These vehicles will be rerouted through the tunnel.
The gridlock on the 210 East, 210 West won’t be helped and perhaps even made somewhat worse,
but that is a small price to pay for this relief on the I-5 through the downtown area. Will Alhambra,
South Pasadena, and Pasadena at last have resolution of the traffic congestion? How about the city of
San Marino, Rosemead, and even Eagle Rock? Well Metro/CH2MHhill has the numbers
to show this as well, but it isn’t much and the numbers are unsubstantiated.
Can this project be stopped? You bet it can. It can be stopped by our elected officials. This is first
the Metro Board which is composed of County Supervisors, L.A. City representatives, and other
representatives from throughout the county. These are elected officials. The California Transportation Commission has to approve the EIR/EIS. These people are appointed by the governor
of California, Jerry Brown. Remember elected officials want to be re-elected officials. They
want your vote.
If all else fails there are still the courts. Metro and Caltrans don’t listen to the public and this
sham of a study can be run anyway they want. They can lie to the public, but they can’t lie to
the courts. Someday if our elected officials don’t step in to stop this boondoggle, Metro and
Caltrans are going to have to explain their illogical arbitrary decisions to a person wearing a
Yoga Chandran, the project director of the EIR/EIS from CH2MHill, asked me why I cared
about the tunnel since I lived in South Pasadena and there was to be no exhaust in my city and the
tunnel passed under not through my city. I still live in Los Angeles and the money wasted on this
project will come from my pocket. This project will be like a huge vacuum cleaner. It will suck up
all the monies for transportation projects in Los Angeles County and beyond.
I am also concerned about the health and wellbeing of others in Los Angeles. There are just better
ways to spend my money. There are many good projects that can be built and give employment to L.A. residents, not outsider tunnel borers.
Some people say that the tunnel will never be built, but let me tell you that the planners have many
detailed plans for the tunnel. Their plans even describe the landscaping! So if money is no object
and increased death and disease for those living adjacent to the portals and in the vicinity of the 210
East and 210 West aren’t a problem for you, don’t be concerned with the tunnel. If you think it is
worth $5-10 billion to take 25,000 vehicles a day off the I-5 in 2035 in the down town area, you should not be worried about the tunnel.
Dr. Bill Sherman is the chairman of the South Pasadena Freeway and Transportation Commission and represents the City on the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) of Metro. The TAC is composed of representatives from the Cities and various representatives from public agencies concerned with the EIR/EIS. The TAC is informed by those performing the EIR/EIS about the details and progress of the study.